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U.S. Border Patrol Agents Interdict Drug Smuggling Boat Carrying Nearly $10 Million of Marijuana
13 men arrested by multiple agencies

(Friday, July 27, 2012)

Santa Barbara, Calif.– U.S. Border Patrol agents collaborated with their Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners early yesterday morning to arrest 13 individuals following the interdiction of a Mexican panga-style boat loaded with more than 6,600 pounds of marijuana along the Santa Barbara County coast.

 click for hi-res
The 27-foot panga boat had 6,619.82 pounds of marijuana on board.
The 27-foot panga boat had 6,619.82 pounds of marijuana on board.

At about 1 a.m., Border Patrol agents observed the boat just off the shore of Las Flores Beach. Agents responded to the area and encountered the 27-foot boat with three outboard motors which had come ashore. A total of 300 bales of marijuana totaling 6,619.82 pounds were found on board. A lengthy search of the surrounding area was conducted by Border Patrol agents, California State Parks rangers, special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team and resulted in the arrest of 13 men. In addition, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter provided air support.

The group of arrestees included eight male Mexican nationals, one male El Salvadoran national, and four male United States citizens. Four of the men arrived on board the boat, while the remaining suspected smugglers were located along the beach. The marijuana had an estimated street value of $9,929,730. ICE HSI is conducting the ongoing investigation.

San Diego Sector Border Patrol Acting Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Troy Matthews remarked, “Our collaborative efforts to thwart maritime smuggling and prevent transnational criminal organizations have assisted in keeping dangerous drugs off our streets. This multi-agency maritime taskforce is a crucial piece of our enforcement strategy in securing California’s coastal borders.”

 click for hi-res
The marijuana had an estimated street value of $9,929,720.
The marijuana had an estimated street value of $9,929,720.

“The surge in maritime smuggling activity here in Southern California represents both a security and a public safety threat,” said David Wales, assistant special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Santa Barbara. “HSI continues to work closely with our Federal, state, and local partners to disrupt these schemes and bring those responsible to justice.”

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its strategic partners have increased coastal border security in San Diego and Orange counties, transnational criminal organizations have shifted their smuggling activities further north into Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties. As a result, CBP and its partners have intensified efforts to target the illegal activity, expanding the use of marine patrols, land-based surveillance, and collaboration with the Government of Mexico.

Those efforts are being overseen by the Department of Homeland Security’s Los Angeles/Long Beach Regional Coordinating Mechanism. The group is comprised of ICE HSI; CBP’s Office of Air and Marine, Office of Field Operations, and U.S. Border Patrol; the U.S. Coast Guard; and several state and local law enforcement agencies, including the sheriff’s departments of Orange and Los Angeles counties; and the Los Angeles Police Department. The California National Guard’s Counterdrug Program also provides numerous entry identification teams along the California coastal borders in support of CBP.

To date in fiscal year 2012, the Los Angeles/Long Beach Regional Coordinating Mechanism has recorded a total of six maritime smuggling incidents in Santa Barbara County.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control, and protection of our Nation’s borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.


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